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Hi, I’m Andrea, and I’m a Food Addict

17 Jun

It was about a week ago when it happened… when I realized I had a problem. When I woke up that morning, my immediate thought went to the leftover pizza in the fridge. I wasn’t thinking about my “to do” list or my plans with friends that evening. I was thinking of that veggie and meat-filled piece of cold pizza. When my feet hit the floor, I started to walk towards the fridge while actually saying out loud “I’m not hungry”. I opened the fridge door. Still saying “I’m not hungry. I’m not hungry”. I grabbed the slice of pizza. I’m not hungry. I’m not hungry. I started chewing the slice and eventually ate all of it, all while saying to myself “I’m not hungry”. I knew the problem was real, and I needed to control it.

Where did it begin?

I remember being around 9 or 10 years old and hoarding bags of Combos in my nightstand. When my parents would be out running errands, I’d pretend I was the host of my own cooking show at the kitchen island. I’d concoct “fancy” recipes like potato chips with peanut butter. I knew “closet eating” Combos and waiting until my parents left so I could eat the “bad” food was a problem. I knew it was unhealthy. It wasn’t like I didn’t know better.

By the time I was 10, I had gotten my menstrual cycle, probably earlier than anyone in my class. I was the only girl in the locker room filling out a training bra. I remember looking at the thinner girls and thinking that because they were smaller, they were pretty, and I wasn’t. I blamed the puberty for why I wasn’t thin. It wasn’t because I was eating Combos late at night.

andrea mommom casts

andrea granddad kati

I was never really bullied in school, at least not about my appearance. I can’t remember a time when the “popular” girls made fun of my weight. I just assumed they did. I would browse my Seventeen magazines and see the advertisements in the back for “fat camp”, and I actually wanted to go. Who actually wants to go to fat camp??

By the time middle school ended, I had thinned out a little because I was making home workout regimens for myself and sticking to them, but I still thought I was fat.

andrea 8th grade

It was in my high school years when TV movies seemed to revolve around eating disorders. I remember watching Tracie Gold and Jennie Garth battle eating disorders on my TV, and I wanted to be thin like them. I wanted to have an eating disorder (who says that!?!?). I tried once eating a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies and throwing them up. That didn’t last long. I tried once to be anorexic. I made it to dinnertime before I quit.

It wasn’t until the end of high school before I started to feel pretty and confident. I was determined to go to college with this new mindset.

andrea high school grad picture

Throughout college, I spent many hours in the gym working out, but I developed some unhealthy eating habits from being on my own for the first time. I vividly remember eating a lot of Stouffer’s pizzas and Wawa hoagies with lots of mayo, and I was on a weird eating schedule because I had classes all day and then worked nights at TGIFriday’s. I sometimes didn’t hit the gym until 2am.

I think I’ve gotten off on a tangent here. What I’m trying to say is… I’ve been addicted to food and have developed poor eating habits over many, many years, and I’m just now realizing how big of a problem it has become. When I go out with friends to a Mexican restaurant, all I can think about is the basket of chips with salsa. I think about getting my fair share. My friend better offer me half of the last chip. I always ask for a refill if the server offers it. Same thing with the bread basket. I hope my dining companion is keeping track of how many she’s had because I lost count, and we should both get equal portions of bread! When I go to an event, my first thought is about the food. Can I make a meal out of the appetizers so I don’t have to make dinner later? Will anyone see me if I take seconds (or thirds)? Dang, that cheese dip is delicious! I hope they have more in the back in case this one runs out. I’d come home from said event and eat Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. See? I have a problem.

Where do I go from here?

I’ve been saying to friends and my mom for a while now that I needed something like Weight Watchers where I get the support, but I needed something along the lines of AA or NA where we’ve all recognized we have a big problem. A problem larger than ourselves. Larger than just the food we eat. For me personally, Weight Watchers just didn’t work. They teach you what to eat (kind of) but they don’t fix the problem. I absolutely loved my leader, but the people in the meetings would encourage others to drink Diet Coke and eat spray butter and fake sugar. And WW tries to push their fake sugar products. No. Just no.

I needed a group to stop coddling me and start telling me I have a problem.

That’s when I found Overeaters Anonymous. I watched Emily’s videos about her experience and decided I needed to find a meeting and just go.

Before the Meeting

I showed up unusually early for me, so I had about 45 minutes to just sit near the meeting room at the hospital. I was alone in my thoughts, so I brought out my notebook I always carry with me and just started to write what I was feeling. I started to feel really ashamed that I needed to be there. How did I let myself get to this point? I ended up messaging Emily and talking things out with her. She was extremely helpful in settling my nerves and telling me more about her experiences. (Emily is very open about her OA experience. Otherwise, I would have kept her name out of this blog for the sake of her anonymity.)

The Meeting

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with very welcoming, warm smiles. They wanted to know me and were very encouraging that I share during the meeting. They handed me an OA book and the “welcome” materials.

OA follows basically the same 12 steps as AA and NA, and this week’s topic was Step 6: handing your human defects over to God or a Higher Power. Everyone but myself and another new person had shared their story as it related to Step 6, and then I was “nudged” by another member to also share. I immediately started off with “I’m not even sure how appropriate it is to share this, but I don’t believe in God or a higher power, so if you have the same beliefs and have some suggestions, please get up with me.” And then I followed with my story and related it to the passage in the book about using the same old tools you’ve been using to fight your addictions (more on that later).

After the meeting, several women approached me about how they interpret “Higher Power” and offered some passages in the AA and OA books about being Atheist and Agnostic in OA. I also received a few hugs and lots of “keep coming back” encouragements. I left with lots of reading material, a “welcome” chip, and lots to think about.

Since the Meeting

It’s been five days since the meeting, and I can honestly say it definitely changed my mindset. My head has been clear. I’ve been focused at work, and I’ve kept a really tidy home (you know how hard that is for me. I’m working on it!) I went to the grocery store tonight and left with lots of veggies and lean proteins. I’m ready to take this on 100%!

I’ve given myself this week to just let myself think about OA. I ordered the book but haven’t read a word of it. I just want to take it all in and make sure OA’s for me. I don’t really consider myself to be an “overeater”. I don’t binge. My body knows its limits and stops me at a certain point, so I’ve never been one to drink a whole 2-liter of Coke or eat an entire bag of chips in a seating. I think I just choose the wrong types of foods, and my hunger trigger is out of whack. So, I’ve named myself a “food addict” instead of a “compulsive overeater”. I think it suits me better.

Since so much of the literature includes God and Higher Power, I decided to find a suitable “Higher Power” that I could use and feel comfortable with. One Facebook friend said “I’m Agnostic and my HP is my true soul. The best, most beautiful part of me. The part of me that wants nothing but the healthiest, happiest, addiction-free life. I am my own HP.” Brilliant! It’s awesome to think that there’s a beautiful, authentic, addiction-free Andrea that’s inside of me who is yearning to come out. She knows the difference between being hungry and having a craving. She’s healthy, happy, and full of life, and I can’t wait to meet her.

The Difference Between OA and Weight Watchers

I really like that OA doesn’t have a leader. Someone in the group volunteers each week to lead the group. No one is allowed to interject or offer an opinion while someone’s speaking. No one’s trying to sell you products. There’s no pressure to weigh in every week or even share what you weigh. There’s no judgment. No egos. There’s no cost. You simply donate what you want to contribute whenever you want. I like that I’ve been able to take this week to reflect on the group and the meeting without having to learn an eating plan and worry about next week’s weigh-in (because there are no weigh-ins).

This isn’t about counting calories. It’s about dealing with the deep-seeded problem I’ve developed.

(Weight Watchers is great for some, but I’m saying it wasn’t for me, and I don’t think it ever will be.)

 

My next OA meeting is on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to diving more into the program to figure out if it’s for me. I enjoy the meeting aspect and learning about the experiences of others. I’m not sure I’m keen on the 12 Steps yet since research shows those types of programs work for the minority. But I’m willing to give it a shot!

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16 Responses to “Hi, I’m Andrea, and I’m a Food Addict”

  1. Kelly M. June 17, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    This was pretty cool of you to put out in the open. I have the same struggles with school. I read Think Thin and Grown Thing by Charles D’Angelo last night. He talks about how food addiction and how to get past it. I was able to find a used copy on Amazon Prime for 5.95. I would highly recommend it. It also offers a 12 week (super easy and yummy) food plan and workout route (which is again easy). I don’t normally do diet/fitness books– but this one may be a game changer for me.

    Best of luck with your meetings, would love for you to share more.
    Kelly
    Kelly M. recently posted…Gulf Coast Road Trip: Part TwoMy Profile

    • Andrea June 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      I’ll definitely check out that book! Thank you for suggesting it.

  2. Gail June 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. You have inspired me to look at my own relationship with food and take control of it. Good luck on you journey.

    • Andrea June 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      Thank you for saying that. Good luck to you as well on your journey!

  3. Juli June 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Wow, Andrea, we have so much in common that it’s a little scary. I hope OA works out well for you. I’ve done WW a couple times and while I lose a little weight in the short term, it always comes back and then some. And I hated the constant pushing of fake foods. I don’t do diet soda or fake fats. What the hell is fat free cheese made of? Cheese *is fat! But like you said with the pizza, if there is a food item in the house I like/want, I’ll eat it whether I’m hungry or not. It sucks. I hate feeling out of control of myself that way.
    Juli recently posted…Weigh In Wednesday #12My Profile

  4. Susan June 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    I too sometimes struggle with food issues, and have a tendency to comfort myself with food. Like you I am also a runner, but have never really enjoyed it, and would get frustrated when the scale didn’t move – probably due to some unhealthy eating habits and my thinking I didn’t have to watch what I ate if I were exercising. I too have been trying to readjust my attitude towards food but I know how difficult it can be at times. I applaud you for the honesty of this post. Looking forward to following you on this journey.

  5. Kelly June 18, 2014 at 1:30 am #

    I can NOT wait for tomorrow. I can’t wait to get started on this new journey!
    Kelly recently posted…I Like You Just The Way I Am by Jenny Mollen (Review & Giveaway!)My Profile

  6. Emily June 18, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    GIRL, you know how proud I am of you. :) Being able to open up this much is a huge victory in itself, let alone on top of attending OA for the first time! I’m so happy and honored to be your friend through all of this new territory. <3

    Right there with you on the true-soul HP. We can do this, and it's because somewhere in there – we aren't broken. We've already succeeded. Time to start connecting with THAT PART of us!!
    Emily recently posted…note to self: stop standing in your own wayMy Profile

    • Emily June 18, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      Also, total side note … I wonder if it would be cool to start a agnostic/atheist weekly group chat? Like a video chat? Or maybe just a typing chat? Hmmmm. Wheels-a-turnin.
      Emily recently posted…note to self: stop standing in your own wayMy Profile

      • Andrea June 18, 2014 at 10:44 am #

        Ooh! I’d totally be on board for that! I need to get a webcam soon.

    • Andrea June 18, 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m so honored to be going through this journey with you too, friend. :)

  7. Alice July 11, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    I have the same problem you had in the beginning of your life….Im in highschool and I can tell I’m gaining weight. It’s so frustrating and scary. I work out alot but I can;t outrun my fork. I feel like everyone in my school is smaller than me..but every time I try something I always bounce back to binging even worse. (I know you said you don’t binge) It’s like I get to the point where I’m like, I’m not even hungry I should stop, but then I just get to the part where the flavor dosn’t even matter..I just taste the texture,and my self conscious is just laughing at me like “try to burn this off fat a**) excuse the language…but atleast I wanted to say thanks for sharing what you had to say and being so open about it.

    • Andrea July 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your story, Alice. I wish I had the right words to help you.

  8. Gracie July 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s been only very recently that I’ve realized how many bloggers out there are willing to embrace the idea of overeating as a disease. I’m finally starting to connect the dots of how I got to my highest weight (and how my struggles still find me occasionally even after massive weight loss) and I’m not sure I’m brave enough to share all of my story on my own blog. Mostly because I think it might hurt some people (like my parents) to understand their role. I’m trying to weigh the pros (helping other people the way you are) with the cons (hurting or embarrassing my family) as I mull this over. I will keep checking back to see how your own pursuits are going. Thanks for being an inspiration to me! Much love!
    Gracie recently posted…First Swimsuit in 15+ years…My Profile

    • Andrea July 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing, Gracie! Have you talked to your parents at all about their role? It could be very therapeutic for them and you to talk about it. Maybe they have a different perspective to why they did the things they did, and it could help you understand them.

      • Gracie July 18, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        Yeah. It doesn’t work that way with my mom. But it doesn’t mean I can’t plow through my own issues and just silently acknowledge what got me here and what I don’t want my kids to go through. :) My oldest son is only 7 and already constantly making body-conscious statements, and always using words like “skinny” and “slim” and “fat” and “chubby.” We’ve had some long talks lately about how none of those words mean healthy and good health/bad health can look like any one of those body types. Hopefully I’ll handle it better. (And presumably make giant mistakes somewhere else in his upbringing in exchange…)
        Gracie recently posted…First Swimsuit in 15+ years…My Profile

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